Microsoft Intensifies OBA Push

Redmond launches new effort to encourage development atop Office.

Microsoft is touting Office Business Application (OBA) development. The company was slated to announce the OBA OnRamp Program at its Worldwide Partner Conference, scheduled for July 10-12. The program includes a Web site and technical resources, as well as marketing assistance for partners, according to Microsoft.

In addition, Microsoft plans to hand out 10,000 OBA Quickstart Kits at the show. These will contain demos, case studies and the latest Reference Application Packs (RAPs).

"It's Microsoft's attempt to support partners in developing OBAs to complement their own solutions," says Daz Wilkin, program manager in Microsoft's Platform Strategy group.

Microsoft's OBA pitch is pretty straightforward: Developers can use Office (primarily Office 2007) as a platform that combines the ubiquity of the world's most widely deployed productivity suite with enterprise business processes and data for improved productivity. OBAs also fit neatly into the company's Software Plus Services model.

"OBAs are a manifestation of Software Plus Services," Wilkin says, "which is Microsoft's pragmatic response to the fact that, although new and emerging technologies, such as those provided by the Software as a Service players, are key and important, they won't ever replace the services that exist within the enterprise and reside in the data center."

Growing Opportunities
Josh Greenbaum, principal analyst at the Enterprise Applications Consulting Group, sees lots of OBAs in the future. "Microsoft Office is becoming a major platform for new development in the ERP space," he wrote in a June report. "Duet is selling like hotcakes, and everyone else -- Oracle, IBM, among others -- is waking up to the fact that these familiar desktop environments are one of the best places in which to place new functionality for ERP users."

Forty of Microsoft's top 200 ISV partners are building OBAs to complement their apps, Wilkin says. The Duet OBA, announced last May, links SAP AG's accounting, human resources and inventory systems to a Microsoft Outlook front-end.

Wilkin says Microsoft has plans to build out five "killer OBAs" in the next year, including a sample Outlook-plus-CRM application and a collaborative product lifecycle management app.

On June 29, the company released two new OBA RAPs: one for plant analytics and one for e-forms processing. A week earlier the company added a health plans RAP to a growing list that currently includes RAPs for loan origination, price management and SCM.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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